Various Positions: A novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, Jun 28 2011
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Shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association’s 2012 Evergreen Award
Quill & Quire - "Best Books of 2011"
The Globe and Mail - "Best First Fictions of 2011"
"The year's best debut."
“Schabas's dialogue is often extraordinarily expressive, compressed to a tight code for swirling inner worlds. . . . This is a wonderful, courageous debut.”
—The Globe and Mail
“A thought-provoking look at femininity and sex, made all the more confusing by that ultimate contact sport—ballet.”
“Schabas skillfully weaves themes of power, communication, trust, intimacy, and betrayal through this character-driven tale, as 14-year-old ballet dancer Georgia struggles to find a place where she belongs and people she can trust.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“…Various Positions is a provocative, dark, and challenging read, which provides a fresh take on difficult questions about human nature in our contemporary world.”
—Quill & Quire
“Martha Schabas is clearly a natural with long-form fiction. . . .The sign of a truly good novel is one where your personal interest in whatever topic or milieu (in this case, The Royal Toronto Ballet Academy) doesn’t matter. It is a good story told in an original way, and if it were about monster trucks, another thing I’m less than enthused about, I would still be intrigued because Schabas writes so well. . . . Schabas is a writer in full control of her craft, and her debut book is a worth and important addition to this seasons list.”
—Zoe Whittall, National Post
“[A] read-in-one-gulp debut.”
—The Toronto Star
“Beautifully descriptive and disturbing. . . .Schabas’s prose is engaging and provocative, full of images and ideas that dance through the mind.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“A highly realistic, totally gut-wrenching portrayal of teenage awkwardness and acting out. Those unflattering realities make for a compelling contrast with the flawless, fragile elegance of the ballet.”
“Rarely does a debut novel nail its subject with such precision, but Martha Schabas has taken the confusion of teenage girls and the world of ballet to create a stunning novel. . . . Various Positions is amazing. Its insight into the world of girls, ballet, and lame parents is pitch perfect. Ballet fans will appreciate the candour of this novel, but its appeal is much broader than that audience. Various Positions is an outstanding novel, full of wisdom and language that dances across the page.”
—The Vancouver Sun
About the Author
Martha Schabas' articles, book reviews and fiction have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The New Quarterly, ELLE Canada, Broken Pencil, and Maisonneuve. She holds an M.A. in English Literature from Queen’s University, and an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she received the David Higham Literary Award. In 2012, CBC Books named Martha one of the “10 Canadian women writers you need to read now.” She lives in Toronto.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Her mother, a university lecturer, is becoming increasingly erratic and embarrassing. Her emotional theatrics are nothing new, but in recent weeks they have got worse and worse - swinging between rage and deep depression. Georgia notices that her mother's mood swings are focused on her father, alternately trying to gain his attention and rile him. An important psychiatrist, Georgia's father is rarely home, and when he is he pays little attention to his wife and shows clear disdain for Georgia's less-than-academic, dancing pursuits.
Georgia's only solace is in ballet, but even as she lives her dream studying at the Academy, she starts to notice cracks in the fantasy. Her fellow dancers are catty and clawing; beautiful girls all sharing the same aspirations of stardom, they quickly turn on the weak and expose miniscule flaws for personal one-upmanship. But even more frightening than the barbs of her fellow students is the critical eye her esteemed dance instructor, Roderick Allen. He is renowned and revered, known for his harsh treatment of young students and merciless critique of the dancers.
As Georgia tries to make sense of her collapsing home life, she draws closer and closer to Roderick, desperate for his approval...
`Various Positions' is the debut novel from Canadian author, Martha Schabas.
The novel opens on a scandal.Read more ›
With a handful of elite adolescents, Georgia Slade enters Toronto's Academy of Ballet and encounters Roderick, the merciless artistic director. The dance program bursts with psychological warfare as students must endure both Roderick's and each other's emotional bombardments. But callow, desirous Georgia soon discovers that ballet encompasses something more onerous than physical and mental hardship: sexual tension. Juggling her own longing with her erotic power, she hatches a crazy plan that climaxes in a perfectly forthright, sensitive and reflexive scene.
Although the lead-up to Georgia's outrageous act at times drowns in pornographic undertones, the novel ultimately personifies the kidnapping of innocence by surging hormones. Schabas's dialogue is extraordinarily tight, expressive and heart-breaking, filling the reader with a desire to comfort and protect the young protagonist. It may inspire controversy and resistance but "Various Positions" succeeds as a wonderfully courageous debut.
I have only one true quibble with the story. The main character, supposedly a teenager, has an inner voice that seems far younger. Until it is mentioned that she is in grade nine, I though she was much younger, maybe grade five or six. For fourteen, she seems quite naive, almost too naive to be believable.